Labrador after digging a hole in the garden.

8 Simple Ways To Keep Dogs Out Of The Garden

Written By Vedrana Nikolic | Canine Coach, B.A Ethnology & Anthropology, M.A Semiotics.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 11th January 2024

Have you just finished planting the most beautiful bed of adorable flowers, only to find it completely destroyed by a pair of naughty paws? Perhaps you’ve finally made your lawn look perfect only to find it ruined by doggy ‘traffic’. Whatever the case, we know the struggle.

Keeping a perfectly manicured garden is almost impossible in combination with free-roaming dogs. Or is it? If you want to know how to keep dogs out of a garden, keep reading.

Today, we’ll discuss a variety of possible strategies that will help you achieve this task.


Gardens & Dogs

Before you go to war with your dog over your garden, stop for a minute and ask yourself this question: can dogs and gardens peacefully coexist?

While many have found it impossible, some people do think there are ways to achieve peace between the canines and the flora. In fact, famed author, Cheryl Smith, wrote a whole book about it. She thinks it’s entirely possible, albeit it does require effort:

“The dog doesn’t know these are problems. It’s all just the great outdoors, part of his turf, to him. We, humans, are the ones demanding everyone walk here, not there, or play only in that open space over there. So it’s our job to plan a dog-friendly garden that will accommodate your dog(s) as well as explain our garden-friendly rules to the dogs, and in a nice way, if you please.” - Cheryl Smith, Dog Friendly Gardens (1)

But how realistic is that in real life? Well, it depends. Every human, dog, and garden is unique, and each can be more or less problematic.

Training your dog should always be your first impulse, but some dogs just cannot be left alone in a garden. In other cases, some modifications to your garden might be necessary to help your dog understand the rules.

But of course, all of this only makes sense if it is your dog that’s ruining the garden. When other dogs are to blame, then, well, there is nothing left to do but try to protect your garden and deter the dogs to the best of your ability.

So, today, we’ll go over different tactics you might want to use to keep your dog out. We’ll start with physical barriers, moving other repellent options, down to specific behavioural tactics. Let’s start.


The Best Strategies To Keep Dogs Out of the Garden

#1 Build a Fence

This one is a bit obvious, right? But building a fence to keep dogs out of the garden might still be the easiest and best strategy to use. The type of fence you’ll need to use will depend on your dog as well as your aesthetic preferences.

Chicken wire is affordable and works, although it’s not the prettiest option.

Now, of course, if you have a small dog, you can get away with a very low fence around the areas of your garden that you want to protect. If your dog is large and loves to jump over fencing - well, tough luck, but you might still give this strategy a go.

Either way, having any kind of fence or visible barrier around the no-go areas will help teach your dog where they are not allowed to go. Don’t expect your dog to instinctively know that your delicate flowers shouldn't be walked on - you’ll have to make it obvious.

Now, garden protection is a topic where various forms of electric fencing come up. Impenetrable, deterrent, or even better, invisible - a great idea? We don’t think so. Although they might not physically hurt your dogs, these types of fences can still be harmful and also might prove ineffective (2). It’s not worth it.

#2 Build a Barrier

If you are not keen on building a fence around your garden, creating a barrier using plants that repel dogs might also be an option. Something dense or prickly is a great idea.

For example, with a small non-aggressive dog, a dense bush around your garden bed might be all it takes to prevent intrusions. Something with thorns like rose bushes also has the potential to scare off some dogs while also looking nice.

And, as mentioned, having a visible limit to the garden area of any kind can help teach your dog to keep away.

#3 Try Deterrent Scents

You’ve already heard that dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Smell is the main sensation that help dogs navigate their environments. Knowing this, it makes sense to try to enforce boundaries using smell, right?

Well, in theory, yes, but dogs are also very smart and smelly deterrents won't always work. But occasionally and on some dogs, they do, so it’s worth a shot.

The smells that dogs don’t like include citrus fruits, vinegar, coffee grounds, and smells of spicy foods.

One popular garden deterrent is a mix of cayenne pepper and black pepper sprinkled around or made into a spray and applied to the perimeter of the garden. The idea is that this will irritate the dog enough to stay away. If the main problem with your dog is that they are chewing on plants, this might work.

You can get creative with ugly smells that might deter your dog - just make sure you aren’t using anything that’s toxic for your dog.

#4 Use a Sprinkler

Could such a simple idea work? Well, some dogs are really scared of sprinklers and keeping a sprinkler on is sure to keep them away… Other dogs love sprinklers and chasing after the water.

But in any case, you can’t keep the sprinkler running all the time, otherwise, you’ll end up overwatering your garden (and wasting water).

Well, there is a solution to all of that - a motion-activated sprinkler. These things do exist and are sometimes called scarecrow sprinklers. They get activated when anything comes close to them and thus startle the invader. These tend to work like a charm for scaring off dogs and all sorts of other animals.

Now, it’s probably not the best idea to use such a scare tactic against your dog. There are much better ways to train a dog, and they might even catch on and get used to the sprinkler when it keeps going off all the time. But as a general deterrent against random animals (including dogs) walking into your garden, these sprinklers work great.

#5 Use Raised Beds & Containers

How much are you willing to change in your garden to accommodate your dog’s needs? Switching to gardening in raised beds and/or containers can be a great compromise that will keep you both happy.

It’s much easier to teach a dog not to jump on a raised bed (and they might not even be able to) than to teach them not to run across your delicate flower bed.

Of course, this is not a quick fix and requires some effort and planning. But if you are looking for a long-term solution, we recommend you give it a thought. Raised beds come with lots of additional advantages, so it’s not like you are sacrificing the garden for the dog.

#6 Provide a Safe Outlet

What has been the main problem with dogs in your garden? If it’s been the digging, consider creating a safe outlet for the need to dig. Dogs have a natural digging instinct and sometimes it might be easier to redirect the behaviour than to get rid of it altogether (3).

So how can you do that? Create a digging zone. For this, you can simply delimit a corner of your yard, or you can use an actual sandbox, like those made for children.

Of course, you’ll also need to explain to your dog that this is now the digging zone. You’ll do this by rewarding digging in the digging zone, and interrupting any attempt to dig in other areas. Just like all training, it requires some effort, but after some time your dog should be able to learn to respect the appropriate digging spots even without supervision.

#7 Train Your Dog

The best way to keep your garden safe from your dog is to teach your furry friend to respect the garden. You should accompany every strategy you try to keep a dog out of the garden with appropriate training.

“You can improve your landscaping to make it more dog-friendly in a variety of ways. But don’t forget that you can also improve the dog to make him or her more garden-friendly” - Cheryl Smith, Dog Friendly Gardens (1)

For example, you might not need to create an impenetrable fence around your garden. Perhaps, you just need to create a boundary your dog can see and then work on teaching them not to cross it. The same goes for digging, chewing on plants, and peeing in inappropriate places - some attention and positive training work can go a long way.

#8 Try Some of the Commercially Available Products

This is our least favourite option, but if all else fails, and you really need to save your garden, you might resort to some ready-made products available for the purpose. For example, there are dog-repellent sprays you can buy that are meant to keep dogs away due to its smell or taste. Do they work? It’s questionable, but they might. In any case, if you use something like this, make sure to double-check if it’s safe and non-toxic.

Then, there are also ultrasonic dog repellents that are meant to scare dogs off with sounds they can’t hear but you can’t. Again, a very questionable tactic, but it exists.


My Final Thoughts

Teaching a dog to stay out of your garden can be a very frustrating task. You are not alone in this struggle. And it gets even harder if you need to keep the neighbour’s dogs or strays out too. Still, with some effort and dedication, it can be done. It doesn’t even have to be that difficult, you just need to be clever about it.

Go through our list, find the best strategies for your situation, and make a game plan. We hope you’ll get to have both a happy garden and a happy dog.

References

  1. Smith, C.S., 2004. Dog Friendly Gardens: Garden Friendly Dogs. Dogwise Publishing.
  2. Miller, P. August 24, 2016. “Why We Don’t Recommend Electric Fences (Shock Collars)”. Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved December 30, 2022. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/leash-barrier-reactivity/why-we-dont-recommend-electric-fences-shock-collars/
  3. “How to get your dog to stop digging”. Humane Society. Retrieved January 2, 2023. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/stop-dogs-digging

Vedrana Nikolic


Vedrana Nikolić is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach, Professional Writer, Anthropologist & dog lover.

With a Masters Degree in Semiotics & Bachelors Degree in Anthropology, studying the communication between animals and humans, Vedrana is able to use her expertise to analyse and review dog products and write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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